Microchips & the kooky cop
Monday January 24th 2011, 4:30 pm

Top cop’s wishlist: microchipped crooks

South Australia’s police commissioner says some people should be microchipped as a crime prevention measure.

Commissioner Mal Hyde made the remark while answering a question at an international Australian Crime Prevention Council forum in Adelaide.

Mr Hyde said his comments were light-hearted, but added that society could embrace such a concept in the future.

“I’d like to microchip a lot of different people, just to be a little bit flippant about it, but I don’t think that’s going to happen,” he said.

“I say it sort of flippantly, but who knows, because attitudes change so much?”

Mr Hyde said widespread CCTV had once been considered an unlikely concept because of privacy concerns.

He said community attitudes usually changed in line with perceived threats.

“If the world became more concerned about crime and internal security then changes would be flowing through much more readily and technology would be much more acceptable in that change as well,” he said.

While Mal Hyde has just outed himself as an authoritarian crank who really shouldn’t have a job in law enforcement, he’s also likely put on display his ignorance of what RFID tags (microchips) actually do.

The vast majority of RFID tags are passive devices, which have no internal power source. They contain either an LC circuit which causes them to resonate at a specific frequency (for triggering anti-shoplifting detectors) or a programmable integrated circuit which can transmit a number, but in both cases, must be within a few centimetres of a reader device, which generates a magnetic or radio frequency field, which is rectified into DC current to temporarily power up the RFID device.

One thing RFID tags don’t do and never will is allow monitoring of the tags from a distance. Some crazed paranoiacs have the idea that RFID tags can be monitored by satellites- or are small enough to be introduced into the body via flu vaccine injections.

One wacky lady out here in the Blue Mountains wrote a letter to the editor, registering her objections about ‘being monitored’ by a microchip installed in her new recycling bin. She should thank her lucky stars (or perhaps her healing crystals) that her comment no longer appears on the Blue Mountains Gazette’s website.

Whatever Mal Hyde thinks microchips do, one thing’s certain- implanting RFID devices in people as though they were dogs, for whatever reason, is about as acceptable in a liberal democracy as tattooing an identification number on the arms of concentration camp prisoners.